Too often do we see rape and sexual abuse cases in Pakistan go by without the culprits beings punished or brought to account. This happens due to several institutional problems that exist within our legal, criminal justice and political systems- the police are reluctant to register sexual crime cases due to political influence and the victim is coerced into forgiving or retracting her statement because blackmail.

This is what appears to have happened in the rape charge against a member of the provincial assembly (MPA) in a Multan constituency. After facing a number of legal and police hurdles, the victim, who had accused the MPA of raping her and making a video of her to blackmail, has retracted her statement.

There are a number of signs which indicate that the victim’s retraction was due to pressure. The police’s behaviour regarding her case has been very suspect. Previously the police had refused to file an FIR against the MPA, claiming that the girl had never brought the rape charge to the police The police further claimed that the MPA fleeing abroad was not their concern since the victim had never gone to the police. Now the police is denying they ever made those claims, stating the Bahauddin Zakariya police had already lodged a case against the MPA, fearing the girl might have been abducted by the lawmaker. Advocate Iftikhar Gill, the lawyer who had appeared in the court of area magistrate to seek direction for the medical evidence, has also opined that the victim made her statement under duress. It must also be reiterated that the victim has medical evidence of the alleged rape, and the accused has fled the country to avoid facing the charges.

These series of events are a classical pattern of a victim giving in to threats or blackmail by the far-more powerful perpetrator. If there were a case to make an example on how to proceed in case of suspicion with regards to a statement under duress, it is this one.